What I’ve Learned About Love

While I work on my next post to share with you all here, I wanted to show you something else I have been working on. Below is a link to an article I wrote for the Huffington Post, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson’s Love Matters campaign. Please check it out and let me know what you think! There are other amazing articles on the same page.

As always, more to come soon!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kateri-allard/childrens-hospital-nurse_b_6015814.html?utm_hp_ref=love-matters

Wash Your Finger Pointing Hands

Ebola is upon us, its official, because everyone is officially freaking out.

On the one hand, it is no surprise that a nurse was the first to contract the virus here on American soil given the hands on, prolonged contact, fluid ridden role we play in health care. Globally, nurses have been on the front lines of this virus for months, often the first infected. In fact, in Liberia, the astounding number of nurses who fell ill resulted in a large impact of the ability to treat and maintain the illness in the cities of a country whose health care system is so much less secure than our own. Imagine the staffing grids over there right now!

But I digress. My point is, that it is no surprise that one of our own was the first to test positive in America. But I have to admit; my initial response was one of dejected disappointment. This feeling was only increased as story after story flooded my news feed and twitter account of the need to identify the “breach in protocol” that caused her to contract the potentially deadly virus. Story after story, person after person, made it sounds more and more like a search for her mistake. I was angry that she was being blamed. I was sad for her that she was sick and also for the position she has been placed in, thrust into the spotlight of fearful masses and frustrated health care professionals. I was sad for nurses.

And then two things happened. First, physicians apparently spoke out in her defense, scolding the CDC for publicly shaming her through their outspoken investigation into the “breach” that occurred. You see, to those of us in health care, this investigation is routine. Each of our mistakes and near misses are examined in the same way. Not with a goal to shame the professional, but to improve the system. What the articles failed to mention was that these occurrences are normal. There is no doubt that an investigation is necessary, but fearful masses can’t hear that sort of rational statement without making it something it isn’t. The first response to fear is often a search to find a source for blame. So thank you, to the physicians who spoke out against the CDC’s (I hope) inadvertent statements of mistakes and subsequent blame rather than their goal to improve policy and procedure.

The second thing was a friend’s statement yesterday, about how often we are faced with the choice to don our PPE or save our patient. That the focus should have been on her willingness to put herself at risk, the unfortunate result being her own illness rather than that of a mistake, of her responsibility of putting herself, maybe even others in jeopardy. (Thanks Beth, you’re awesome). How often have you run into a room for emergent suctioning, or God forbid chest compressions, the mask in your hand instead of fully onto your face until you’re part way into the room? Don’t get me wrong, the stakes here, with a virus like Ebola are higher, and we will respond accordingly when it comes to safety and PPE. But the reality is that PPE isn’t perfect, somewhere between application and removal, prolonged contact in a room, emergent needs, etc., mistakes can happen, mistakes will happen.

The most important thing I realized in what my friend Beth said was this, we are in this together. And we need to start acting that way. So instead of sharing your fears, educate yourself about the real facts of the virus. Instead of standing by while people talk about what she may have done wrong, support her. Thank the nurses you work with for continually putting their health at risk for their patient’s, for the fact that they will continue to do so. Stop sharing articles on your social media accounts from uneducated, unreliable sources. Don’t perpetuate the fear everyone is feeling. If you’re looking for someone to blame, take your pointed finger down and wash it. Then wash it again.

And as you’re doing that, send some get-well wishes to a bad a** nurse we should all start looking up to. Because if an Ebola patient rolls into your unit tomorrow, will you be volunteering to have them in your assignment?

Get well soon Nina Pham. You sure aren’t Just a Nurse.

I do not mean to minimize the severity of this illness, and certainly do not intend to imply that hand hygiene would prevent this illnesses spread. However, I stand firm in my opinion that accelerating the hype is more damaging than productive, especially when it comes from members to the health care system.

Lessons from a Year as Just a Nurse

I learned a lot in Kindergarten, but unfortunately, and contrary to popular belief, I didn’t learn everything. It felt like I learned a lot in nursing school, but it still wasn’t enough. I have learned a lot in nursing, in my years thus far of being a nurse at the bedside. But most of all, I have learned exponentially more than I would have imagined in a year of open dialogue with nurses; from nursing students to seasoned nurses. Burnt-out nurses to those still full of naïve passion. These are some of the most valuable lessons I learned and applied in the past year.

Don’t cry over spilled…

Poop. They say don’t cry over spilled milk, but I have worked in NICUs and PICUs and I can tell you that a drop, an ounce, a whole frozen milksicle of hard earned maternal breast milk is certainly worth crying over. I’ve learned to grip that stuff like the world’s last Faberge Egg, heart racing at the very thought of it slipping from my hands to the floor. The perfect details of someone’s handiwork shattering around my Dansko clogs, the whole world in that instant painfully and resentfully aware of the negligent mistake I have made.

The explosive diarrhea that gets on your glove and through a misguided, poorly thought-out, quick swipe of those flyaway hairs out of your face, gets firmly planted on the edge of your curls, causing you to drop the bed pan, splattering it all over the floor, your shoes, pants, the IV pole, and wall with a loud crash that brings even the laziest of coworkers running in your direction. That isn’t worth a single tear, unless it is from an over abundance of laughter hours later over an aptly chosen mudslide at the bar around the corner with your coworkers when the shift is over.

I have learned that my day often, if not consistently, does not go as planned. It isn’t worth my tears though, or even my disappointment. Learning to go with the flow has been a valuable lesson that has come closer and closer to home in the larger and busier units I have worked on. More so, watching the nurses who have burnt out early versus those with impressive staying power seems to be highly correlated with their ability to let things go without getting bent out of shape over it. So don’t cry over the poop, the sputum, the dilaudid you just dropped on the floor… but never, ever, ever drop the breast milk!

What’s gonna work? Team Work!

This is the chorus of a theme song on a children’s cartoon. Working in pediatrics, it seemed to always be playing in the background in all of the moments when I needed the reminder the most.

How am I ever going to make it through this assignment alone?

I would frantically whisper to myself early in the day.

And in that moment the cartoon gerbils, or munchkins, or whoever they are, would musically remind me of how.

I am never alone.

I can tell you a story, that I sat with a lonely patient on my lap, administering his meds one by one through his central line, IV syringe pump on the bed ahead of me. But I wouldn’t be telling the full story unless I added that Molly brought the medications to me from the refrigerator and locked medication bin, going through the patient’s medical profile and verifying one by one that each medication was correct, giving them to me lined up in order of administration time to ease my work of again verifying each medication against my patient’s profile and then his arm band.

I would also have to tell you that Leigh had come in to remove the IV pump from the pole where it originally stood, leaving the IV line taught, at risk of snapping or coming undone. She detangled the many lines and cords to place them safely on the bed. I would need to mention the resident who checked in frequently, relieving me at one point when after hours of sitting I realized I could not hold my bladder another minute. She moved easily into my spot and he stroked her hair instead while I ran to the bathroom.

And I would have to mention Kathy, the nurse on the night shift who relieved me, agreeing to take my place with the patient in her lap, rocking him to sleep and tucking him into bed for the night.

I have learned that I am never, ever alone. In a code, I have had team members already helping out before I have even found my voice to yell for their assistance. The moment before I have become tired from compressions a resident or other nurse has tapped my shoulder and seamlessly taken over. When my patient has passed, and I have felt the sinking loneliness of failure, I have felt more supported and surrounded as each and every person has checked in, asking if I am ok. The charge nurse has sent me away for a deep breath and cold water on my face, and I have returned to a fellow nurse compiling my notes to ease to overwhelming task of documenting the precipitating events in time to accept my next patient.

Teamwork works, and it is often so natural in this environment that it goes unnoticed.

Rise, and shine, and give… the Glory, Glory

If that line doesn’t start the chorus of the children’s song in your head you must have spent less time in Sunday school than I did. But regardless, I have learned in nursing, and in life, the importance of giving the glory somewhere else.

“I don’t believe in God.”

You may say. To which I reply, not a problem! Just find another source. It could be a coworker, an old professor, or the Christmas cactus in your living room. Regardless, if you focus on the glory of what you do going to someone else you won’t miss it if it isn’t there. When you take the glory for yourself you start to expect it, and when it doesn’t come your way you begin to lose your passion and drive. Those feelings of burn out may start to creep in, or even worse, you may begin to resent the patients, families, physicians, who once glorified the work you do and suddenly do not, or haven’t for some times.

One of the issues I see in nursing, and I am as guilty as any other, is that we don’t feel respected, so as a result we are desperate for recognition. There’s a big difference between wanting recognition for the nursing profession and recognition for your self, as a nurse. Don’t mess with the latter, its risky business and can lead you down a slippery slope.

So find where you will send all of your recognition, the your God, your gods, or your team, it doesn’t matter. What matters instead, is that you learn to not find your worth in what you do based on the praise you receive for it.

Talk to Me

I have been so lucky in the past year to be thrust into dialogue with nurses around the world. I have a learned a lot from all of them, about our differences and similarities, new nurses versus the old the staples. But most of all, I have learned that as much as we like to talk to each other about what we do, we do not succeed in telling the world about it. And when we try, for some mysterious reason, it comes out like a laundry list of complaints and requests from martyrdom.

We aren’t martyrs! We chose this profession, and it is time we start treating it like one. If the desire is for nursing to be seen and respected it is time to use our words and eloquently, confidently, to share what we do with society. Instead of complaining that doctors are portrayed in television, recognize that it is because physicians have written books and screenplays and placed their profession there sooner or more often than nurses have. Instead of crying that nurses are portrayed negatively, watch Wolf of Wall Street, Silence of the Lambs… We aren’t the only ones portrayed negatively by characters or stories in film, we are just the group insecure enough to feel defined by it.

We nurses are desperate to be understood but fall short of fixing the problem, so pick your head up, stop whining about long shifts, sore feet, and stunted emotions that come from the work you have chosen to do. Instead, find a way to share the pride you have in what you do.

There is so much more than these three lessons, but I think this is a good place to start. I learned a lot from a year of being Just a Nurse, I learned it all from you. So thank you, and keep up the good work.

Nurse

A year ago today I posted to my hardly read blog about nursing. Apparently my feelings were universal as you, my readers, shared the post globally which to date has been read over a million times on this blog and even more by readers of the Huffington Post. In honor of this important milestone for my blog I have reposted a slightly edited version of the original post here. Tomorrow I will be back with my follow up of what I have learned in a year of being Just a Nurse.

In the first year of my career as a Registered Nurse I continued my education, wrapping up my Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, not yet a requirement to work as an RN, but a well worth it continuation of a degree to make you a more well-rounded, and in my opinion, respected Nurse. One of the requirements for this degree was a course called “Professional Issues and Trends.” The course explored the profession of nursing, the barriers it is facing, and the way that we, as nurses, can change that. I learned many things in that course, but the most valuable lesson, the thing that has stuck with me the most was this.

A few days into the course, our Professor made one thing very clear; each and every one of us, from that moment on, needed to remove “Just a Nurse” from our vocabulary.

“Are you a Doctor?”

“No, I’m just a nurse.”

I have spent six years since trying to avoid that phrase. More so, I have worked to avoid that feeling. I work hard at what I do, but am often aware that my friends and family have no concept of what nursing really is. I don’t just bring you to your room at the doctor’s office, sit you on the table, and check your normal blood pressure, then go and get the Doctor. Instead, I am often in a room with a small child on a ventilator, multiple intravenous medications infusing through central lines keeping the vascular system constricted or dilated. I monitor blood gases and adjust ventilator settings accordingly. If the blood pressure goes too high I adjust the medications related to these values. I keep my patient adequately sedated and paralyzed, for their safety, without over medicating them. It is often my responsibility to determine this balance.

Recently, I had a nearly two year old patient who pulled his own breathing tube out in the early morning. We weren’t sure whether he would do ok without it so I monitored his respiratory status closely all morning. By mid-afternoon he seemed to be doing well enough. His sedation had worn off and he had no interest in spending another minute in bed. Concerned that he would harm himself moving around through multiple IV and arterial lines, plus a BiPap machine, and monitor leads, I decided to hold him. I was fortunate that day to only have the one patient since he still needed such close monitoring. He had no family present but needed close to a dozen IV medications over the next five hours. I collected them all and lined them on his bed. I pulled his syringe pump that would be used for the medications off of the IV pole and placed it on the bed in front of me. I lifted him out of bed and onto my lap, into my arms. For five hours we rocked and I held him close. He stared into my eyes, played with my hair with his one arm, tried to suck this thumb through IV sites and arm boards. I gave his medications one by one until the nurse who would relieve me for the oncoming shift came in.

I am not just a nurse. I am a nurse. Over the course of a 12 hour shift I can go from interpreting serial blood gases to comforting a sick child while continuing to monitor vital signs, respiratory status, and administer medications.

I am the eyes, hands, and feet of the physician. I am not their eye candy, or their inferior. I don’t stand up when they enter to room. I don’t follow their commands, we discuss the pathophysiology of the patient’s condition and together we make a plan. Often the things I suggest are the course of action we take, other times I learn something new I had not understood from this doctor. They don’t talk down to me, we discuss things together, as a team.

After a disagreement recently over a minor medical decision between myself and a doctor, a friend replied to me,

“No offense Kateri, but obviously we’re going with the doctor over the nurse for this one.”

“You’re just a nurse” they might as well have said, although I know that they did not.

I was surprised by how angry and affected I was. It felt as though the color left my face and the posture left my shoulders. Something inside of me sunk.

The following day I struggled to understand why I was still upset. Surely they had no idea what these words had meant to me, or how they felt. The intention had not been criticism or harm, I was making something out of nothing. Over lunch the following day, as I discussed my new job with my family, it became clear. My job is so much to me, and so much of it is misunderstood. And maybe this is no one’s fault but my own. Sure I’m a nurse… yup some days are sad… yeah, blood and poop don’t bother me. But that is all I say. I don’t tell you what I really do. And the media definitely doesn’t either.

Nurse friends, help me out here, maybe it’s time that we stop pretending we are less than we are, that we do less than we do.

I came across the following blurb this morning. I wrote it a few years ago for Nurse’s Day, and it rings as true today as it did then. I may not be a doctor, but I am a nurse. And if you are someone whose mind says “just a nurse” please, go ahead and ask the nurse you know best what it is that they do. I think you may be surprised.

I am a Nurse. I didn’t become a nurse because I couldn’t cut it in med school, or failed organic chemistry, but rather because I chose this. I work to maintain my patient’s dignity through intimate moments, difficult long term decisions, and heartbreaking situations. I share in the joy of newly born babies and miraculously cured diseases. I share in the heart break of a child taken too soon, a disease too powerful, a life changed forever. My patient is often an entire family. I assess and advocate. Sometimes I wipe bottoms, often I give meds, but that isn’t the extent of what I do. There are people above me, and people below. I work closely with both, without them, I could not do what I do well. I chose this profession and love almost every minute of it. I know I am not alone and I appreciate all of the nurses who work alongside me. Many of them have shaped me into the nurse I am. Someday I will shape others into the nurse they will be. This wasn’t my plan B, it was my plan A, and I would gladly choose it again.

Burnout

Disclaimer: If you don’t live in a big, hot, humid city like New York this analogy may not completely apply to you. However, I urge you to read on and use that brilliant, colorful, imagination of yours to join me on this journey.

You know that feeling in these hot summer months? The temperature is high, the humidity level even higher making it feel at though you may in fact be swimming, not walking down the street? The soft breeze is hot, but still manages to intermittently provide a brief, slight, but welcome relief from the stale, melting hotness. The middle of your back, your scalp, your palms, some days even your knees, are dripping in sweat. The only place on your body that isn’t soaking, is your mouth which feels dry once again the moment you swallow the most recent sip of whatever iced beverage you have chosen to enjoy at that moment.

It must burn extra calories to be hot, because somehow the exhaustion is constant. You feel like you’ve walked up a mountain in the two flat blocks between your apartment and your subway stop. Each step feels heavier, like the world is weighing more densely on your shoulders than it was in the step before. It feels like it will never end, like you will never be cool again. It also feels like it can’t possibly be worse, but then it is.

As you descend the stairs onto the subway platform, the breeze is left behind, and suddenly it seems like such a gift to have had it. Now the exhaustion turns to exasperation. There is suddenly a surge of energy, negative energy in the added heat, humidity, and staleness of the unmoving underground air. The energy turns to aggression. If someone so much as looks at you the wrong way you may snap. The person preaching, snapping their gum, or playing cell phone games, volume on and no headphones makes you clench your fists. The thick air slowing you down is their only saving grace. You glance around, prepared to fight anyone who may try to cut ahead of you in line to enter the train. And even still there is the risk that when you finally do get onto the train, relieved at the site of so many open seats, you are suddenly and overwhelmingly aware that this car isn’t air conditioned today. I’m not even going to go there, because that’s just wrong and something I can’t even talk about!

Anyway, the point is, the moment on the platform dripping in sweat, exhausted and overheated, right before the train slows to a stop and opens it’s cool inviting doors, blasting your face with a rush of cold air, that moment, and the ones leading up to it are a lot like how burn out feels.

It’s suffocating and exhausting. It consumes you and changes you. Changes how you see, feel, and worst of all respond to the people and situations around you. In private, it makes you unhappy, discontent, negative, and in public it makes you miserable to be around. In the workplace, it makes you toxic, even dangerous, especially if your work involves caring for others.

Just under a year ago I began the slow descent into a period of burnout. I was aware of it, each moment as it was happening, each day as my case became more and more severe. I would try to wade off to the side of it, clinging to dry land in an attempt prevent it from infiltrating the person I was and the work I was doing. But eventually, at first in small tugs, and then like a rushing wave, it took over, the current of it was too strong for me to wade against, and it knocked me over and trampled my once optimistic spirit.

The burnout began to infiltrate everything, my personal life, my work life, even my private life of time alone with myself. What started as a little exhaustion turned into full-blown self-loathing and misery.

Find ways to cool your burnout I say with each opportunity I have had to speak to new nurses. It is a reminder I would be well served to share with those more seasoned as well, even myself. Having an escape route from burnout is important. Something that cools you off and gets you back on track feeling rejuvenated and reminded of why you do what you do in the first place.

This spring, as I spoke to young nurses in Maryland and again at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, my own alma mater, I spoke this advice being fully aware of how terribly I was struggling to apply it to myself.

My burnout wasn’t just about work, I felt burnt out of being me. Thinking about it took over what felt like every waking moment. I woke each day hating the early alarm, cursing my dependence on coffee as I squinted my way into the kitchen to brew the day’s first pot. Moments before the shower, I cursed the numbers on the scale whose digits had become an embarrassment to me. After the shower, I cursed each very limited fine hair on my head as I tried with frustration to create the illusion of a thick head of hair. At work, I sat through report burnt out on the selfish girl I had become, spending my morning annoyed with caffeine, weight, and hair while the ventilators and dialysis machines of the PICU had plugged along, trying to support the bodies of sick children; balding heads, narcotic dependent, weight so far below a healthy range.

As each day dragged on, my frustration would grow as my responses were short, my empathy inadequate, my frustrations too quickly leaving my mind and exiting off my tongue in the direction of whoever had challenged or upset me.

PICU Kate, my boyfriend took to calling me. The alias of all of the traits I wish I could permanently hide; my bossy, stubborn, and rude alter ego.

Perhaps most of all I was burnt out knowing that I wasn’t living up to the person I was portraying; the proud nurse, supportive healer, hand holder, team collaborator, self-lover. Each week as I sat down to write, I struggled to find anything honest to say. And so I said nothing.

My posts have been sparse, and for that I apologize. But the good news is this. I gave myself permission to be burnt out. I gave myself permission to slowly cool off rather than force a false fix. And it’s working. I feel like I’m ready to be back. I wake up each morning and choose to have my cup of coffee. I skip stepping onto the scale as each day I try to learn to love what my body does rather than how it looks. I’ve given up on the hair, I’ll buy some clip in extensions soon.

And as for work, I’ve gone through a bit of a transition in recent months. But as my life has proved to show me time and time again, I am once more exactly where I need to be.

I hope I haven’t lost your attention in my brief time away. But if I have, I did it for me, I needed it, and I hope you will welcome me back.

Finally, if this burnout thing seems all too familiar and seems to hit home with that churning in the pit of your stomach, know this, the next cool train is approaching the station, but its up to you to step off of the hot platform and into the air conditioned car. So take a deep breath, step on, take a seat, and breath the crisp cool air. When you are ready, get off and get back out there. I’ll be waiting for you.

Credibility

“Thank you for your credibility, Kate” she said, at the moment I had turned to walk out of the room.

“You said you would be here, and you were” she had continued, in a tone that made her sincerity clear, and validated the surprise I felt at the compliment, the rarity she experienced in giving it.

I had come to her to follow up on a discussion we began the night before. She had made a request that I could not grant at that time, but I had promised to return in the morning to follow up. From early in the morning it was clear to me that I still would be unable to come through for her, to resolve the matter in her favor. I had shown up nonetheless, to apologetically deliver the bad news, in person. I knew I would tell her I couldn’t do it, but that I would continue my efforts to see if the situation would change throughout the day, to at least allow for a continued shred of hope.

I entered the room disappointed, even nervous at the task of telling her no. I had anticipated, at least in the back of my mind, the potential for a confrontational response from her. The reasons for her request were valid, but the outcome she desired was simply not possible. She was obviously disappointed, but understanding. Thankful, if not encouraging, that I continue to try to fix things.

Her words upon my exit had stopped me in my tracks. Gratitude for something with which I always hope to function, but realize is not always present. For if it was, the acknowledgement of my credibility would be moot, as if she had thanked me for breathing.

Credibility. It isn’t about being able to give more, produce more, please people more. Rather, it is about focusing on only making promises I intend to keep, furthermore, promises I actually can keep. Not only that, but credibility requires that I communicate what I intend to do before I begin the process of doing it.

The outcome, for her, would have been no different, regardless of whether I had shown up to tell her myself or not. But if I had chosen to hide, to break my promise, the disappointment she felt would not just be for the outcome, but in me as well.

Since my incident with the mom in the room and the disappointing news I chose to deliver in person, I have shifted my daily focus. It hasn’t been long, but so far the results have been positive. In health care, sometimes one of the major things our families want from us, as caregivers, is a little credibility. The most common complaint I field from the families I have cared for is the inconsistency they see, whether it be an inconsistency between different team members, or even worse, individual inconsistencies. People saying they will do one thing, and never communicating, never acknowledging if or why things have changed. A little credibility goes a long way in building confidence and satisfaction.

And this isn’t just true in hospitals, or even in business. In personal lives we could all use a little more of this too. I think about how often I say I will do something or be somewhere, and how quickly I let things get in the way and change my plans. Some people may call it flaky, but I’m starting to think that, unfortunately, I simply just suffer from a profound lack of credibility sometimes.

But it isn’t too late! I am going to try to fix it. And you probably can fix it too. What better people we would be, better professionals, lovers, and friends if we focused a little bit more on our own credibility.

Home

Given the fact that we just celebrated the 4th of July, a holiday focused on the birth of our country, its independence, and our patriotism, I have been observing the fact that there are a few things we Americans are all about. We love junk food, football, and day drinking. We like thinking we are the best at anything, and even more so, love finding ways to become the best while investing the least amount of effort possible. We love saving those less fortunate than us, using our size and power to protect them. We love cotton candy and cotton, especially if we can eat the former while dressed head to toe in the latter. We love fireworks, hotdogs, and bonfires. All of these things are great, and likely each deserving of their own blog post, but for today I want to focus on this. We, as Americans, love milestones and their celebrations.

So, as such, today it feels appropriate to celebrate the milestone that it has been one year since I began a big scary journey. Actually, realistically, it wasn’t big or scary. I sold my house, moved my life into storage, and moved myself into New York City. I traded a three bedroom, 2000 sq. foot house with a porch, and deck, and a fenced in yard for a studio apartment not much bigger than the unit I was renting back “home” for all of my belongings. I emptied all of the memories out of my first house on Eldorado Street. I said goodbye to my friends who felt like family. I left a job that I loved full of people I respected. I filled my grocery cart one last time at Wegmans. I bought comfortable shoes and I piled a few bins of clothes into my car with my mom for the drive to New York City.

I remember crossing the George Washington Bridge, the city skyline visible to the south as we drove over the Hudson. I remember Washington Heights, and driving down Riverside to the 80′s, admiring the quaint streets and quaint families that inhabited them. I remember being excited by the noise, the hustle, and the infinite options of unknown.

I remember mourning what I was leaving behind, all while hoping, trusting, expecting for it to be replaced with things equally good, maybe even something more, something better.

I am a dreamer, a big thinker, a make-believer. But no game of dress-ups in my childhood, or daydreaming in my adolescence had prepared me to imagine what I would find here this year.

It was probably mid-August before it happened the first time. It was likely a day off. I am sure the sun was shining. I left my apartment, perhaps on an errand, or perhaps, with nowhere special to go. As I walked, the sun hit my face and filled me with warmth. A smile spread across my face and I am sure I giggled like a little girl. I was just so happy to be here. It was a joy I had forgotten, or had maybe never known in my life before.

It was mid-October when a friend from Syracuse texted to ask how I was. I was moving out of my studio and into a one bedroom apartment. I had just survived the famed New York nightmare of finding and renting an apartment. I had sold both of my kidneys and that of my father and a friend to secure the lease of a rent controlled apartment. (There may not have actually been organ procurement involved, but it sure felt that way at the time.) In addition, between first, last, security deposit, and a broker’s fee, I had about $200 in my bank account. My grandmother had saved the day with a loan, my mother had driven a 14ft truck through city streets, and I was finally going to have a kitchen again.

I feel authentic.

I told her.

I had shrunk myself down to fit my life before. I felt like I was constantly changing myself to make things fit right, instead of changing those other things. I finally, for the first time in years, feel completely, authentically, me.

And that has not only continued, but has grown. It feels like longer than a year. The girl I was before feels farther away than last July. I miss my Syracuse friends everyday, and lately I really miss the deck and the grill, and the yard at Eldorado. But the fit I found in the last year, the me I found, and the life I built, I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

I could not possibly have known it yet, but last year, as I drove across the bridge, down Riverside, and turned left toward the park, I wasn’t just moving, I was moving home.

My first night in NYC after a very hot move!

My first night in NYC after a very hot move!

This was yesterday, celebrating my New York-iversary at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

This was yesterday, celebrating my New York-iversary at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens